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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Well That Didn't Go As Planned, Now Did It?

Well as most of you know, JagrWatch 2011 is officially over.  After weeks (months) of speculation and posturing, the wait for Jaromir Jagr to come back to the NHL officially ended yesterday as the Penguins second greatest player of all time decided that it was in his best interest to take a job in Philadelphia.  That's right, people.  I said Philadelphia.  You know?  The Penguins biggest rivals!! 

In the last two days, the Pens were led to believe by the people in the Jagr camp (ie, Petr Svoboda, his agent) that he was still making a tough decision but his heart was in Pittsburgh.  He had always talked quite candidly about how he left the city early last decade and how he always regretted (or so he claimed) how it all went down.  Does anyone remember the "dying inside" comment?  I do.  The city of Pittsburgh does.  But we got over it.  He spoke before of being willing to take a pay cur or even play for nothing if he could just play again for Mario Lemieux and show him that he still had something in the tank.  Remember the interview during the Olympics?  I do.  The city of Pittsburgh does. 

Everyone seemed willing to let bygones be bygones and move on.  Getting one of the most storied players in franchise history had set the city a buzz with excitement.  It also polarized many Penguin fans because of that feeling everyone has for someone that they loved dearly who betrayed their trust and respect.  On one side you had the people that wanted him back, if nothing else, but to bring himself back into the Pittsburgh Penguin family and retire where he belongs.  On the other side were the naysayers that saw nothing but the same old Jagr antics that we last saw, upsetting the locker room chemistry and wreaking havoc off the ice.  Then there were those, like yours truly that saw a different perspective.  I saw a guy that was willing to put aside his ego, admit his mistakes, and rejoin a team that made him who he was.  He was a guy that despite being almost 40, can still score, can still skate, and can still scrap.  We all saw that in the World Championships and Olympics (albeit on wider ice).  Having a guy like that would drastically improve not only one of the top lines on the wing by complimenting Crosby or Malkin, but also jumpstart the power play that was all but non-existent last season. 

But alas, these shenanigans that transpired yesterday, I'm not too sure either myself, or the city of Pittsburgh will ever get over.  When it came down do it, despite what you might hear different, it came down to two things.  The same exact two things that doomed the Jagr/Penguins relationship the last time.  Money and Ego.  With all the contact his agent and the Penguins had over the course of the last month or so, you would have thought a deal was already worked out.  Even his agent, after the fact of course, said this wasn't about money.  The Pens deal was a one year deal worth $2Million, hardly a feeble gesture to a guy that is just short of 40 and hasn't played the NHL style of game for a few years.  If he really wanted to come back to Mario, he would have taken that in a heartbeat.  Svoboda even said he had another offer of $6Million which I doubt, but if that's the case then why not go there?  Why go somewhere that is only offering $1.3Million more than the place you say your heart is in?  It doesn't make sense.  Or does it.

Part of Jagr's problem with the Pens was that despite being the anchor of the team for so long after Mario's retirement, he never really had the lockeroom.  It was always other guys that stepped up and garnered the respect of the younger guys and kept the team together.  There were rumors of his temper tantrums and shouting matches with other players, none of which I can substantiate but it is an example of how his attitude and ego began to creep out of control.   Despite all this, he wore the Captain C and continued to put on scoring clinics night after night around the NHL.  When Mario came back, he was made to relinquish the C back to his "boss" and now teammate and assume the position of second fiddle once again.  He never really got over that and part of the reason for the jump to Washington the first time was because in a Caps jersey, he would be numero uno. 

I think same goes for Philly.  In Philadelphia, after their clearing house sweepstakes style dismantling of their team, Jagr will be that number one guy.  They have no superstars left on the Flyers other than maybe Claude Giroux or Danny Briere.  Two of their franchise players with seemingly lifetime contracts were wiped out.  First they parted ways with Jeff Carter who is one of few pure 40 goal scorers left in the league, taking a draft pick and Jakob Voracek from the Jackets.  Then they dumped their captain and the heart and soul of the team, Mike Richards to Los Angeles for Wayne Simmonds and Braydon Schenn. 

So Jagr is now the man.  His agent told Pittsburgh sports radio yesterday that this decision was based on Jagr going where he had the best chance to succeed.  He didn't say best chance to win, he said succeed.  And there it is.  He wants a chance to go out on top.  A chance to win a scoring title again.  A chance to win another trophy without the name Stanley on it.  A chance to be the center of attention and the focal point of a line with all eyes on him.  That would shut up the critics.  That would make all the haters sit back and say, "Hmmm?  Maybe he still has it."  He wouldn't have gotten that in Pittsburgh.  At best, he would have been the fourth best player on the team.  A worst, maybe the sixth best.  He would be playing under the shadow of Sidney Crosby, who has been molded into one of the all time greats already at an early age by that same man that previously led the way for his success. 

So yes, I'm upset.  I can't say I won't ever get over it.  Despite the fact that it's just a sport, being a fan goes a bit deeper than that.  When something happens to your team, you feel it too.  The excitement as well as the agony are felt by everyone that calls themselves fans.  I got myself sucked into the frenzy caused by a former player, legend, and childhood "hero"s attempt at another shot at greatness.  Instead, i will have to settle by watching it happen in an orange and black jersey. 

But just to pour salt in the wound, Philadelphia went a step further and picked Max Talbot off the free agency wire, signing him to a five year deal.  Because of his play last season and his drop in production, the offer made by the Pens for him to stay involved a pay cut.  Max was a fan favorite in Pittsburgh for not only his demeanor on the ice, but his civic contributions around the city for various charities and events.  Plus, who could forget that fight with Carcillo that jump started the Pens comeback on their way to the Stanley Cup.  Or, the two goals he scored to help win said Cup.  I have no ill will for Max other than the team he chose.  I don't blame him for not wanting a pay cut when someone else was willing to offer him more.  But why did it have to by Philly?  I think he will do well and I wish him the best. 

Mike Rupp also was signed by the Rangers.  I think Ranger fans are still in shock that Jagr wasn't even offered a deal by the team he last played for, and played well.  Jagr made that team somewhat relevant again prior to the lockout, until Glen Sather wouldn't offer him a longer term deal.  He jumped ship to the KHL and had been there ever since.  See there I go, back to Jagr.  I wish Mike Rupp well too and hope he succeeds with New York.

Man I'm so ready for hockey season again. 


  1. I was waiting for this post when I heard the Jagr news. You hit the nail on the head that his ego chose Philly because they decided to get rid of everyone and he can be the big name and not have to play second fiddle to anyone.

    On a personal note, when I got the tweet that the Hawks signed Carcillo I threw up a little in my mouth!

  2. Carcillo as a much as he gets under my skin, somehow it makes sense.


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